N. Korea’s 3-missile test uses multiple launcher
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — North Korea used a multiple-rocket launcher off its east coast on Saturday to fire three short-range missiles that could strike U.S. military bases deep in South Korea, officials in Seoul said.
The launches were the North’s first rocket tests since two intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, were fired last month. By resuming the tests, North Korea defied repeated urgings from the United States and South Korea to stop weapons trials and other provocations to pave the way for dialogue.
The U.S. Pacific Command said that one of the three ballistic missiles had blown up immediately after blastoff, but that two others had traveled about 155 miles before splashing down.
That would be far enough to reach major South Korean and American military bases, including those near the city of Pyeongtaek, about 60 miles south of Seoul. The range also would be sufficient to reach Seongju, a South Korean town where the United States has begun installing an advanced missile-defense system known as THAAD.
The North often has tested missiles with similar scope, but the use of a multiple-tube launcher shows an advance in capability.
The Pacific Command previously said that two of the North Korean missiles had “failed in flight.” But that assessment was later retracted, and the amended view agreed with the South Korean military’s evaluation of the distance the projectiles had traveled.
The missiles were 300-millimeter rockets fired from a multiple-tube launcher, said Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman at the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, where the country’s National Security Council met Saturday to discuss the tests. It was not clear, however, whether the three missiles were fired from a single device or more than one.
North Korea has alarmed South Korean defense officials before with tests of its 300-mm. rockets and displays of an eight-tube version of the system during military parades. The officials say the North has developed the multiple-tube launchers because they are cheaper than short-range, Scud-type ballistic missiles and because they enable more projectiles to be fired.
North Korea keeps thousands of rocket launchers, as well as long-range artillery pieces, along the border with the South, threatening to rain down a “sea of fire” on South Korean cities and islands near the border. The old 240-mm. rockets have an estimated range of 37 miles, putting Seoul, a capital with 10 million people, within reach.
Kim Dong-yub, a defense analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said the tests Saturday appeared to be aimed at expanding the strike range. Nevertheless, the nature of the tests prompted some relief in the region.
The missiles flew to the northeast, not toward Guam, home to major U.S. Air Force and Navy bases. North Korea threatened to launch ballistic missiles in a “ring of fire” around Guam after President Donald Trump threatened to hit the North with “fire and fury” if it persisted with its development of ICBMs.
North Korea Scud-B missiles (at rear) are displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea launched three short-range missiles off its east coast Saturday.